‘British Values’ and Extremism Disruption Orders
‘Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves’ – William Pitt the Younger
Earlier in 2015 Baroness Warsi declared that Britain is fighting an ‘ever-losing battle’ against violent extremists and The Guardian reported that ‘more people were being radicalized in their bedrooms rather than places of worship’.
Cue talk of ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’ (EDOs) from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, seeking to catch those who undertake ‘harmful activities’ for the purpose of ‘overthrowing democracy’. If these were to become law, the police would be able to apply to the High Court for an EDO to restrict the activities of any ‘extremist’ individual.
The Rev. Dr Mike Ovey, a former lawyer and Principal at Oak Hill Theological College declared that proposals for EDOs could create a disaster area ‘for people from all mainstream religions and none’, and, if the views of Mark Spencer MP are heeded, such that EDOs ought to be used against teachers who say that gay marriage is wrong, then Ovey’s fears are well founded.
Both Right- and Left-Wing newspapers have come out in opposition to EDOs and for like reasons, chiefly a fear that laws drafted to crack down on terrorism may be used against peaceful citizens and therefore contrary to the common good.
Yet, what else is the Home Secretary to do? While Pitt’s words of 1783 were a resounding call for liberty we must remember the times in which he lived. He spoke when there was only one state religion. It was not until 1829 that the Catholic Relief Act granted Catholics the right to sit in the House of Commons.
Our way of life is less fraught than that of our country in the early nineteenth century, but it must be the desire of peace that drives opposition to violent extremism, not the fear of religion appearing in public life.